How Italy’s Second Lockdown Feels Different From Its First, According to a Local

An American journalist living in Rome reports on the mood in Italy’s yellow zone.

This past March, it seemed like the whole world was watching, horrified, as hospitals in northern Italy became overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered the first national lockdown in the Western Hemisphere. As an American living in Rome, and one who is used to traveling frequently, my whole life changed as I adjusted to the lockdown — two months of leaving my apartment only to go to the supermarket or pharmacy.

In May, Prime Minister Conte began easing the lockdown restrictions, and on June 3, Italy became the first European country to reopen its borders to its neighbors. I cautiously started traveling within the country again, spending weekends on the beaches near Rome, exploring the rolling hills of Piedmont, visiting Tuscany, and returning to the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples. Many of my friends and colleagues did the same.

“Italians are known throughout the world for being undisciplined, but we stayed closed up at home for two months and got the situation under control,” Daria Reina, who runs Rome’s beloved concept shop Chez Dédé with her husband, Andrea Ferolla, told me. They began traveling around Italy again this summer, documenting their adventures on the Chez Dédé Instagram account. “It seems like we’re going around, but we’re going by Vespa. We’re super cautious,” Reina added. “We never take off our masks when we go around and we wash our hands constantly. All the places where I’ve been are respecting social distancing rules.”

Chez Dédé on Via di Monserrato
Laura Itzkowitz

Reina and Ferolla reopened Chez Dédé as soon as the lockdown was lifted. According to Reina, until recently, they had customers visiting from France, Germany, and other cities in Italy, but now, everyone has disappeared as the much-feared second wave of coronavirus sweeps across Europe. France, Germany, Belgium, the UK, and Greece are all under lockdown once again.

Though Italy’s coronavirus count has risen to more than 33,000 cases, the Italian government is trying to avoid another nationwide lockdown by implementing measured restrictions. First, on Oct. 25, a decree ordered all restaurants and bars to close at 6 p.m. and gyms, swimming pools, spas, casinos, cinemas, and theaters to shut down. Then, on Nov. 6, a new decree shuttered all museums and archeological sites, instituted a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and the country was divided into red, orange, and yellow zones, according to the intensity of the pandemic.

Initially, the red zones — those under a complete lockdown — were Lombardy, Piedmont, Calabria, and Valle d’Aosta. Tuscany and Campania were added to the red zones this weekend. Lazio, the region in which Rome is located, is a yellow zone, so most commercial activity is allowed to continue for now, but many Romans feel that Lazio becoming orange or red is not a matter of if, but when.

Garden floral market in Italy
Laura Itzkowitz

“It’s a soft lockdown, so they say you can go to work, buy things to eat, and then in the evenings, you stay home and don’t go wandering around,” Giorgia Tozzi, general manager of Rome’s luxurious Hotel Vilòn said, explaining the new restrictions, which she believes could have been handled better. “There are restaurateurs — my friends — who spent up to 10,000 euros buying things to make their place safe, and then they got shut down.”

Like Reina, Tozzi had European and Italian guests at the hotel until recently, but now, none of the rooms are occupied. Hotel Vilòn was one of Rome’s first hotels to reopen this summer and Tozzi is determined to keep it open. “From an economic point of view, it’s clear that it’s better to close rather than stay like this. We stay open for the image, because we want to give a message of life,” she said. “However, the situation is critical, even from a psychological point of view. I have to stay positive for myself, but above all, for my Vilòners, who didn’t expect this kind of situation.”

As for how Tozzi is personally coping with the situation? “I got a dog!” she exclaimed, explaining that her little dachshund has become the hotel’s resident pup. Like me, Reina, and many others here, she feels lucky to be living in Rome — one of the most beautiful cities in the world — though she’s sad to see the city so quiet. “I have to say, I miss our American and South American guests because when they come here, they’re so passionate. We see Rome through their eyes.”

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